seemed to have lost some of his confidence at the turn of the year, going five innings without scoring much while getting out in ways that raised some doubts whether desperation was creeping in.
Team India skipper MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli being congratulated by English players after winning the 3rd ODI cricket match against England by 7 wickets in Ranchi. PTI Photo
In Kochi, Virat tried out the waiting game but fell the moment he went on the offensive, although the team went on to hammer the opposition.
In Ranchi, at the brand new Jharkhand State Cricket Association stadium, the result had looked a foregone conclusion at the halfway mark, although recent top-order collapses meant the batsmen still had to complement the brilliant effort by the bowlers — seamers as well as spinners — which had left England shell-shocked.
In the end, Virat produced a majestic innings to finish unbeaten on 77, starting with a flurry of fours against paceman Jade Dernbach that underlined his decisiveness.
Gautam Gambhir dug in at the other end to support his partner. Towards the end, Virat hit big sixes before leaving just that bit for MS Dhoni — told to go ahead of him by Raina to please his fans — who got that emotional winning four to complete a perfect day.
It was India all the way from the start. Like Ravindra Jadeja predicted, Dhoni chose to bowl first and his new-ball bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed, showed both temperament to stay disciplined and enough skill to exploit a pitch that afforded seam movement.
England were on a perennial slide once Alastair Cook was pushed to desperation and fell leg before to Shami attempting an uncharacteristic hoick over midwicket and Kevin Pietersen followed, becoming the latest victim of poor umpiring.
Ravindra Jadeja is gradually finding his feet, like the other youngsters. After his all-round effort in Kochi, he finished with three wickets, the first two in one over.
Both Kieswetter and last man Dernbach played for the left-arm spinner's stock delivery, one that spins away, only to be bowled.
Samit Patel was beaten by the straight one to be trapped in front. But for Joe Root (39) and pacer Tim Bresnan (25), the England innings would have subsided even earlier.
In this season of transition, the top-order batsmen have struggled. But Bhuvneshwar and Shami again set the tone.
Their confidence and ability to move the new ball has allowed Dhoni to bring Ishant, who is still looking to find consistency, into the attack first change as his height enables him to get the older ball to still bounce.
Shami, with an effortless run-up and action, surprised Pietersen with two well-directed bouncers, forcing him to sway away. Ishant too caught him off-guard with one that rose from short of good length.
But Pietersen was dismayed when umpire S Ravi took the natural late deviation to be a nick, confused by the sound the bat brushing the pad flap made.
Dhoni kept rotating his bowlers and they kept striking.